A case of priest sexual abuse too close to home

I am sickened and disgusted … again.

News broke last night and was prominently reported in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer on a new sexual abuse case linked to children attending an Archdiocese of Philadelphia school.  In this case several individuals, including two priests and a sixth-grade lay teacher were indicted by a grand jury for the abuse of two male students – ages 10 and 14 at the time of the assaults – at St. Jerome Church and School in Northeast Philadelphia.

This is the same parish both my wife and I attended as a children during the late ’60s and early ’70s.  I graduated in 1970 … Carol in 1972, along with my brother and several other friends.  Almost everyone I grew up with was associated with St. Jerome.  And many of us have friends and family still living there.  Carol and I were married in the church.  And both my parents and Carol’s mother were buried after funeral Masses at St. Jerome. 

I think having so many personal connections to that parish – its neighborhoods and its people – makes this more personal.

I left St. Jerome in 1985, when Carol and I were married.  We then attended St. Martha’s, also in NE Philly.  Currently, we live in Horsham, PA and I have been an on-again, off-again member of St. Catherine of Siena.  More off-again – than on – for several years, mostly due to my failed faith.

But not my failed faith in God, or in the belief that His Son, Jesus Christ came to us as Savior.  No, it’s much more my failed faith in what the Church has become in its quest to minimize liability in cases of sexual abuse of children by members of its clergy. 

The Church’s reactions to these assaults is simply incomprehensible, unless it is placed in the context of a very wealthy plaintiff desperately scrambling to protect financial assets from victims’ need for closure and their righteous desire for justice.  In any other context offered by The Church, it makes absolutely no sense. 

I have failed long ago in trying to comprehend the need of some adults to prey on the trust, innocence, and vulnerability of children.  If this was the extent of the problem, I could live with my sense of disgust and the compelling urge to clamor for state-sponsored castration in these cases.

Unfortunately, it goes way, way beyond my tolerance level to witness the continuing actions of The Church when confronted with priests (and now a teacher) who prey on kids.  How is that The Church can claim that its people ARE The Church when they consistently refuse to protect their flock from the wolves that abuse?!?  How many times can you transfer an individual, against whom credible accusations of abuse exist, from church to church, from and to positions of authority and trust, without performing the only decent actions required … turning the accusations over to law enforcement for investigation and getting the abusers out of The Church and away from children?!?           

The grand jury report, resulting from the Philadelphia D.A.’s investigation,  states that one of the accused, serving as Secretary for Clergy, “… was acutely interested in shielding abusive clergy from criminal detection … and … the Archdiocese from financial liability.”  

This is the crux of the problem, a church more interested in protecting assets than in protecting the true Church – the people who worship there. 

I have made two attempts since turning 40 to return to The Church.  In one attempt I even went beyond my usual apathetic attitude towards spiritual involvement in a way that made me feel good about myself and what The Lord meant – and could mean – in my life.  But in each attempt, renewed allegations of clergy abuse of children and the more infuriating revelations of inaction or outright cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. has smothered whatever flickering flames my attempts rekindled.

It is no longer worth the effort.

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4 thoughts on “A case of priest sexual abuse too close to home

  1. Jesus is still present in His Church. Priests, bishops, and even popes come and go, but Christ remains forever. He’s the reason to return to the Catholic Church.

    A personal note: I graduated in 1968 from St. Jerome’s. I never had the slightest problem with any priest or teacher there.

    • Neither did I during the 4 1/2 years I was there. My frustration continues to be with a church hierarchy that somehow created an culture where is was acceptable to cover these incidents up whenever they came to light.

      None of this affects my memories of St. Jerome. It has however affected my trust in the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

  2. Mike you wrote, very eloquently I might add, exactly what I have been feeling and to add to your message, like yourself my whole life had been at St Jerome and still is, my boys were all students at St Jerome at the time of these attacks and I still live in the parish. I have not however attended church there since my youngest graduated grade school 6 years ago and I know now that I will not attend again. Also when I talked to my boys about this when it hit the news my middle son, who was in 6th grade at that time and was a student of the lay teacher, told me that all of the kids knew what kind of a man he was and steered clear of him – funny how the 11 year olds knew but none of the adults did?

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